Mujadara is one of those dishes that incites conflictual discussions. Do you like your tabouleh’s bulgur soft or crunchy? Do you prefer the red side or white side of the khobz, Arabic bread (pita)? Do you prefer mouloukhyieh (Jew’s mallow) in leaves or finely chopped? They are all issues that can start a war in Lebanon—or at least some very heated and passionate discussions! For mujadara, do you prefer it as msafayieh (“sieved,” meaning puréed) or as moudardara (“grainy,” kept in distinct grains)?
One thing is sure: Mujadara lentils must be small, round, and dark brown. Those have a deep nutty flavor that will make all the difference for this purist’s dish. In this puréed version, the texture is smooth and silky, and it goes perfectly with a cabbage salad (very thinly sliced) seasoned with a lot of lemon and dried mint and some deep red tomatoes.
- 2 cups + 2 tablespoons (400 g) brown lentils
- 6 medium yellow onions
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
- 1/2 cup (100 g) short-grain rice
- Ground cumin (optional)
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil
- Kamal Mouzawak
Put the lentils in a pot with enough water to cover, and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, finely chop 2 of the onions, and thinly slice the remaining 4 onions. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the chopped onions until translucent, about 10 minutes. Then add the onions, along with the rice, to the lentils, when the lentils are half cooked (when you can bit through them but they are still firm). Add enough water to cover by 2 fingers. Bring to a boil, and cook until the lentils are fully cooked and tender. Season to taste with salt (some will also season a mujadara with cumin).
Purée the mixture in a blender or through a food mill. Transfer the mujadara to a plate and let it cool and set on the plate. The right consistency is very important—it should not be liquidy, or rock solid. A good mujadara is of the consistency of a thick jam or mashed potatoes.
Meanwhile, heat the vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium heat and sauté the sliced onions, stirring, until the onions are a deep golden color, about 20 minutes. Drain on paper towels, and let them cool. The onions should be golden and crisp. Decorate the mujadara with the fried onions, and serve at room temperature.